Review Article

Bisphosphonate-Related Osteonecrosis of the Jaw: Historical, Ethical, and Legal Issues Associated With Prescribing

Beth Faiman, PhDc, MSN, APRN-BC, AOCN®, Aiswarya Lekshmi Pillai Chandran Pillai, MBBS, MS, and Ana Gabriela Benghiac, DMD, MSD, MA

From Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio; Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio; and St. Spiridon Hospital, Iasi, Romania

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence to: Beth Faiman, PhDc, MSN, APRN-BC, AOCN®, 9500 Euclid Avenue R35, Cleveland, OH 44195. E-mail: faimanb@ccf.org


J Adv Pract Oncol 2013;4:25-35 | DOI: 10.6004/jadpro.2013.4.1.3 | © 2013 Harborside Press®


  

ABSTRACT

The long-term effects of many drugs are unknown. Established risks are communicated to patients who participate in clinical trials during the informed consent process. However, unknown and unanticipated side effects of medications may occur years after treatment. Patients with metastatic bone cancer experience an imbalance between tumor cells and the bone marrow microenvironment. Increased cytokine release, osteoclastic activity, and uncoupled osteoblastic activity lead to weakened bone structure and osteolytic lesions. The bisphosphonates are a class of drugs available in IV and oral formulations to treat and prevent bone loss and decrease the risk of skeletal-related events. Intravenous bisphosphonates such as zoledronic acid and pamidronate disodium are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of bone pain and hypercalcemia of malignancy and the prevention of painful bone fractures in patients with metastatic bone cancer. Oral bisphosphonates such as alendronate, risedronate, and etidronate are used to reduce the risk of skeletal fractures in patients with osteoporosis and in breast cancer. Bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw (BRONJ) is a rare but painful complication of treatment characterized by infection, exposed bone, and poor wound healing. In this article, we discuss BRONJ and identify past, present, and future ethical and legal issues surrounding bisphosphonate administration.




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